casual games

When I booted up Virtual Families for the first time, I thought everything looked really nice, but there was a color cast to everything. The characters are of vibrant colors, and the backgrounds were sort of muted. I guess it’s an effect to allow the characters stand out more, but I thought I’d like a brighter, more vibrant house and yard.

So here’s the first “background maps” mod I whipped up, with higher contrast, darker wood, and just generally more “oomph” to the colors. It looks subtle here, but trust me, it’s anything but. Try it – you’d want sunglasses. *updated* Now includes the updates so they all get a colour boost. Here’s a preview:

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

And here’s a link to the zip file. Unzip into your Virtual Familes\images folder. Before making changes to the images directory, make sure you back it up first! (Or you can reinstall, but backing up / restoring is so much faster)

Leave a comment if you want, say, another color theme.

A simple modification to make collectibles easier to spot. I just took the original png and added a very noticeable glow.

Copy and paste the file into your Virtual Families/images folder.

Get the png

Request other mods if you like, in the comments. I’m thinking about doing a money cheat, but honestly, money hasn’t been a problem yet, and nobody’s starving to death. Maybe a few more funky graphic changes.

After the big hit that was Azada (still is, really – the walkthrough page gets hundreds of hits everyday, easily.) I waited for its sequel with baited breath. We were promised many things – bigger, better, more Azada-ness.

What I didn’t expect was a shorter game that took only an hour and a half for me to finish and a lack of challenge overall. I can understand that the first one might have been a little too hard for the casual gamer that are used to Match-3’s, but this is ridiculous. Most of the “books” clocked in at just under 3 minutes for me; there’s almost never a question of which object to use, the game held your hand all the way. When I couldn’t find something, the game obligingly points out where it is for me with a penalty of 4 minutes (nothing, compared to the 40 they gave you in the beginning).

When you’re well and truly stuck, the hints system allows for an unexpected way to get a hint without sacrificing time. Simply click on the hint button and see which page allows for a hint, then look around to see what you’ve missed. No need for a penalty.

There are certain mechanics that are somewhat inventive and new, such as the bury-wine-turns-into-vinegar-in-100k-years trick, but even that harkens back to Day of the Tentacle. Some of the puzzles seem to repeat itself; in two cases we had to click on one page, gets someone’s attention, flip back to another page, and take stuff. Of course, the guy turns around so quick we couldn’t get everything at once, so we just kept repeating the motion and he keeps falling for it.

Like in the previous installment, mini-games abound, but this time integrated into the “books” or storyline. NoΒ  sudoku this time around, or English pegs, thankfully. No slider puzzles either. In trading for the more inventive puzzles, even the mini-games were a bit of a let down. When you finish each book, its mini-game is available for replay. I wish the books themselves were left there for a playthrough as well, but I guess that wouldn’t fit well into the storyline.

Graphically, Ancient Magic is easily the best looking game in the casual market. With its 3D rendered background scenes with proper perspective, the only thing that can compete with it is Dream Chronicles. Even DC doesn’t have the kind of resolution Azada has – 1024 x 768 vs. DC’s 800 x 600. No contest there. Azada’s graphics are sharper and more detailed, objects being picked up are never pixelated.

The orchestral score performed with a real orchestra – no stock music here! – is impressive as well, and while I usually just leave the sound off or very low in games like these, Ancient Magic’s music is worth a listening to.

Is it worth $6.99? You betcha. $20? Not for an hour and a half of gameplay, it isn’t. If you load up the trial and each puzzle takes you 10 minutes to complete, it’s worth it for you. If you breezed through it, wait for a 40% off promotion.

One of the patches will give you 30K in food. Great for lazy starters, and the other gives 1 million tech points, great for impatient starters.

The instructions are there as well. Even though I’ve never tested it on Vista, there are people who left comments with instructions on how to get it to run on Vista. Please check the thread there instead of asking here!

[2008.10.24 – Ok, is down for good until I transfer the domain. Here are the links to the patches:]

If you don’t know what this game is, you have to try it. You absolutely have to try it. It’s the best game on the Big Fish Games community. Click this button and play it – heck, it’s free!

Hail to the Farm 51 team,

Love the new update! Gave us tons more to do. After playing for a few days, here are a few suggestions and a few certain elusive bugs. I’ve been playing this game for weeks now, so mind the length of this email. Thanks for reading. πŸ™‚

Well, the bugs first.

I’m using Mozilla Firefox latest version Java version 6 update 5 1.6.1_05-b13
2 gigs of ram, windows xp sp2.

If you click on the bank balance to open the ledger, it will work 3 times. Then when you click on it again. nothing will show up. Not a showstopper, but definitely annoying if you like to check your year to date every once in a while. Restarting the game by reloading it fixes the problem. The bullet buttons also work in strange funky ways. If you click on one, something else is selected. Weird.

Sometimes clicking on the silo to open the inventory and then clicking on an item can freeze the game. This is pretty random.

Suggestions – (in no particular order; the numbers are just for show)

1. This is probably intentional, but fuel acquisition doesn’t take into account of the cost of the crop circle. So if you only get 3 fuel it actually costs $20k per, while getting over 15 runs the cost down to $10K per. This is kind of misleading since there is a choice to get Cash instead, and people are probably thinking that it works the same way.

2. Free range cows should make more milk than penned cows. Giving them access to a river should mean they don’t need water. Chickens and cows shouldn’t have to be fed if they are given more than 15 squares to roam during the warm months. All this would add the realism of the game. Also, robo-animals should be “fixed” not “healed.” We should also be able to sell cows or even just to let them go – bombing them is a bit uh…inhumane, ya?

3. The alien planet is pretty useless once you max out gnurdaculture. There should be a bit more to do there. A scratch card, maybe? A riddle?

4. If you make a “deluxe” version of this game where you can download it and play it in full screen, I’d buy it. I know lots of people who’d buy it. It’d also be virtually unhackable if you keep an “online only” game where you can get tokens and an “offline mode” where you can’t. Something like the deluxe game son where they include chat.

5. This game needs more screen space. Since you probably can’t provide that, I’d settle for #4. πŸ™‚

6. Having multiple tractors should mean that you can harvest multiple fields at once.

7. The illusionator should have a wider range. Or the kind of range that the barn or shed should have. i.e. one should protect 6 / whatever number you decide regardless of where they are. It just makes sense – I mean, if I can have my hovershed above the river and all my iq enhancers below the river, the illusionator should be able to protect them even if it’s in the upper corner of the map.

8. A few buttons that I don’t think anybody really use on a regular basis: Buy building, animals, equipment, fences, Settings, Help, repair / heal and skills. You have a buy / build menu like your decorations menu, fences should really be under decoration, healing should be done in the barn, skills can go under inventory. You get the picture. Having so many buttons confuses new players and annoy the old ones.

9. When you sell ALL of something, the menu should stay where it is, not jump to the top.

10. a penultimate “fix all” button would be nice.

11. I love this game – keep up the good work! Thanks for reading all this, if you did. πŸ™‚

The MinuteGamer

It is DONE! You can find it over at the site. I’ve linked it directly to make it easier to find.

The walkthrough includes all storyline solution videos, videos for all the harder puzzles, hints for the minor puzzles like pegs, images for all the traffic map puzzles near the end of the game, in a spoiler-free top page. Enjoy!

There are lots of game portals out there, and each offer some sort of loyalty program, discounts, coupon codes and so on. Instead of trying to cram all the information into a blog post, I’ve tabulated the features that most causal gamers care about in their portals, and added “perks” and “quirks” of each in a related article.

You can check out the article at, under the GAMES section.

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